Reported Theory Use by Digital Interventions for Hazardous and Harmful Alcohol Consumption, and Association With Effectiveness: Meta-Regression

Garnett Claire, David Crane, Jamie Brown, Eileen Kaner, Fiona Beyer, Colin Muirhead, Matthew Hickman, James Redmore, Frank De Vocht, emma beard, Susan Michie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
311 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Applying theory to the design and evaluation of interventions is likely to increase effectiveness and improve the evidence base from which future interventions are developed, though few interventions report this. Objective: The aim of this paper was to assess how digital interventions to reduce hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption report the use of theory in their development and evaluation, and whether reporting of theory use is associated with intervention effectiveness. Methods: Randomized controlled trials were extracted from a Cochrane review on digital interventions for reducing hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption. Reporting of theory use within these digital interventions was investigated using the theory coding scheme (TCS). Reported theory use was analyzed by frequency counts and descriptive statistics. Associations were analyzed with meta-regression models. Results: Of 41 trials involving 42 comparisons, half did not mention theory (50% [21/42]), and only 38% (16/42) used theory to select or develop the intervention techniques. Significant heterogeneity existed between studies in the effect of interventions on alcohol reduction (I2 =77.6%, P<.001). No significant associations were detected between reporting of theory use and intervention effectiveness in unadjusted models, though the meta-regression was underpowered to detect modest associations. Conclusions: Digital interventions offer a unique opportunity to refine and develop new dynamic, temporally sensitive theories, yet none of the studies reported refining or developing theory. Clearer selection, application, and reporting of theory use is needed to accurately assess how useful theory is in this field and to advance the field of behavior change theories
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere69
Number of pages14
Issue number2
Early online date28 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018

Structured keywords



  • alcohol drinking
  • behavior
  • addictive
  • regression analysis
  • meta-analysis
  • randomized controlled trial
  • Internet


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